Golf swing mechanics are a constant source of debate among instructors. These teachers typically fall into two camps: Those who teach “swinging,” where the club basically responds to gravity as if it were a pendulum, and those who teach “leverage,” where the club responds to the application of muscular strength as if it were a lever. But when you take the time to look at the mechanics of the golf swing, you realize that both sides are describing the same thing.
Swing teachers, including Jim Flick, may refer to the wrists as pivot points for the pendulum (club) while leverage teachers, such as Ben Hogan, will call them hinges for the lever (again, the club) but each performs the same action. The wrists are relaxed, and the club—be it pendulum or lever—causes them to cock and uncock during the swing in reaction to its movement. Tight muscles slow the wrists down and interfere with their proper cocking action.
In both approaches, the hips remain relatively still while the upper body coils in concert with the hinging of the wrists. By turning the shoulders early in the swing, both arms can remain straight and relaxed until the hands reach waist high; this move is often called a “one-piece takeaway.” At the waist-high position, the shoulder joints simply allow the arms to move up to the top of the backswing—for a right-hander, the left arm remains relatively straight while the right elbow bends—and the momentum of the swing naturally carries the hands to the top.
Change of Direction
At the top of the backswing, the player feels pressure in his wrists as his hands and arms begin the downswing, but the momentum of the club causes the wrists to remain cocked. Ironically, both approaches call this moment “feeling the clubhead.” It is this pressure as the clubhead tries to continue the backswing while the player begins the downswing that keeps the wrists from uncocking until the hands return to waist high.
The downswing is simply a reversal of the backswing. During the backswing a right-handed player will feel pressure in his right hip and leg as his hips resist the turning of his shoulders; likewise, in the downswing the player will feel pressure in his left hip and leg as his body unwinds from its coiled position. The right shoulder may drop slightly, but this is neither a large movement nor is it planned; it simply happens as a natural part of the swing. The arms and wrists straighten as they return to their setup position, and momentum rotates the player’s body to the left after the ball has been struck.
Ultimately, a golf swing is a very natural movement; Annika Sorenstam wrote that it felt like she just rotated her body and the ball got in the way. When learning to swing a golf club, the critical areas for most players are the takeaway and the change of direction; these motions cause more difficulty because they are large movements using both hands and arms together. Get these two movements correct and you will learn to swing with very little trouble.